UrbanGarlic is a space I created on the Internet to share some of my biggest passions, which mainly centre around vegan food and original recipes. I’m also an avid climber, dancer and fitness enthusiast, so you’ll find elements of those snuck in throughout the blog as well. But mostly I created this blog because I love sharing (my friends call me a “Share Bear”). Sometimes that involves sharing advice, sometimes it’s sharing food, and sometimes it’s over-sharing about things people might otherwise tell me to keep quiet — like my dormant but significant struggles with disordered eating and social anxiety. Let’s face it, if we can’t talk about these things, people can keep pretending they don’t exist. And that’s where we suffer!
Here’s a little more about me: I’m 25 years old and hold a BA in English and Cultural Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University. I live in Toronto (more specifically, Scarborough Village, a southeast neighbourhood of the city surrounded by park land on the waterfront) and currently work full-time as a writer and editor, while doing freelance journalism on the side (I previously worked as a news editor before I moved into content production). On top of that, I also teach tap and jazz one night a week at a dance studio in Richmond Hill and do freelance choreography whenever I can (mostly for high schools). I love to keep busy, so when I’m not working one of my several jobs I’m taking dance class myself, climbing (mostly sport climbing), doing yoga, writing my novel, learning things, swimming… you name it!
Okay, sometimes I relax. I love to read, watch TV (I can watch a rerun of Seinfeld, The Office, Parks and Rec or The Simpsons over and over and not get bored of it) and, of course, eat. But the truth is, I thrive on being productive. If I can find a project to do, I’ll do it. Many of my projects will be documented on Urban Garlic, such as fixing up my apartment, getting personally organized and staying productive at work.
I live with my roommate, Chris, a student at UTSC, his crazy and loving cat, Lucy, and migrate often between my apartment and my partner’s place in Midtown Toronto.
I wanted to add some FAQs onto this page — these are partially messages I’ve received through the blog, my Tumblr blog and also in real life, so I figured I’d lay them out here, lest there be any lingering inquiries!
Q: What kind of veganism do you practice? Are you an ethical vegan or is it for dietary reasons?
A: I am proudly an ethical vegan, which means my veganism goes far beyond what I eat. I do not buy clothes, accessories or personal care items which are not vegan. Despite this I keep my food consumption relatively healthy and my intake of processed foods, gluten and high-fructose foods low. This is because of my own body’s needs. I am a very active person and my body rewards me with tons of energy and good vibes when I cut back on the aforementioned foods. Nevertheless, I am not vegan for my waistline — I am a vegan because I oppose the effects animal consumption has on our environment and on animals.
Q: Do you only buy from brands whose parent companies are 100% vegan?
A: At this point in my life, no, I am unable to make this commitment. While I would love to, the further you delve into veganism the more expensive moves like this are. Though I always make an effort to buy as much local and independently-owned food as possible (and most of the food I eat is produce, anyway), I will occasionally buy something like Earth Balance, which does not come from a vegan parent company.
Q: Do you support PETA?
A: No. PETA is not a charity, it is a business. Though they can be used as a decent resource for checking which foods are vegan and which are not, PETA’s practices are highly unethical and I take serious issues with their ad campaigns. Many vegans oppose PETA.
Q: What kind of advice do you have for going vegan on a budget/with allergies/while still living with your non-vegan parents/[insert restriction here?]
A: Questions like this are never a simple answer, so if I do answer these, I will make an entirely separate post for them. I don’t feel right speaking as an authority on things I can’t identify well with, such as having allergies. I have no food allergies (save for shellfish, which obviously are not vegan) and can’t really offer anyone advice on going vegan if you have, say, a nut allergy. All I could tell you would be what I know from Google, so I’d really just be a middle man regurgitating someone else’s advice.
Q: What are your favourite vegan spots in Toronto?
A: A go-to for me is Urban Herbivore, which has several locations. They’re a great balance between food that is yummy and filling while also full of great plants and vitamins. Yay! When I’m feeling like a bit of junk food or missing the taste of chicken fingers I love the Hogtown Vegan on Bloor at Dufferin. A new favourite of mine for vegan grub and a pint is the Porter House on Dundas West, which doesn’t so much offer faux-meat as it offers really interesting and unique combinations. I also can’t walk through Kensington Market without a trip to Bunner’s, a 100% vegan and gluten-free bake shop (I also own their cookbook)! For the most part, I am a café dweller, and while I don’t make it a point to attend only 100% vegan cafés, I usually make sure they offer at least some vegan snackies, so I love De Mello Palheta Coffee Roasters in Midtown and Broadview Espresso near Broadview Station.
Q: Is your cat vegan?
A: No! First of all, Lucy is not actually my cat. She belongs to my roommate, Chris. It is up to him how he chooses to feed her. Secondly, I have heard endless conflicting accounts of the effects of raising cats and dogs vegan. Though some swear it’s do-able, others say it’s incredibly harmful, and I just don’t feel right committing to that if I’m going to be harming a pet. Fortunately, I’m not faced with that decision as I do not have my own pet.
On eating disorder stuff
Q: What kind of eating disorder did/do you have?
A: I suffer from ED-NOS, which stands for Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. This means that various elements of disordered eating and obsession with my body creep around my life, but I don’t necessarily fall into disorders more clearly defined such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa or Binge Eating Disorder. I’ve discussed this repeatedly in several posts, but for the most part it was manifested in obsessive calorie counting, compulsive exercising (such as running up and down my stairs over and over after a big meal), obsessing over my reflection and feelings of social anxiety after I’d eaten.
Q: Do you currently still have ED-NOS?
A: I believe that one is always in recovery, and as a matter of fact many of my tendencies creep up at the worst of times. However I am proud to say that I have been in control of my body and my weight for some time now (since the end of university) and have never fully relapsed to what I was at my worst (age 18-19).
Q: How did you get started cooking?
A: I wasn’t one of those kids who stood in her parents’ shadows in the kitchen. My Mom was always a bit of a control freak (love you, Mom!) and would rather she be at the helm of the kitchen than have us messing it up. She did teach us to cook basic things early on, but we were never a family that put a lot of emphasis on food. I didn’t grow up in a culture that is very food-heavy (we’re French-Canadian and Irish, and cooking together is not emphasized the way it is in, say, Italian families), so I only ever learned basics — roasting chicken, making hamburgers, cooking pasta. I also grew up in Northeastern Ontario where we don’t get a lot of very fresh (or affordable) produce and it’s not a very ethnically diverse population, so even things like stir-fries were considered out of this world! I started cooking in my first year of university, back when I was still cooking meat, because it was my first time having my own kitchen. I started to fall in love with experimenting, and started to think of food as fun. Not coincidentally, this was also when I started truly recovering from my problems with eating. In my third year of uni, I started working off of more recipes from different web sites to try and train myself to follow recipes and then come up with my own. It was a great experience!
Q: What are your favourite sites to get recipes from?
A: My number one inspiration for not only food but also living my life healthily and happily is Angela Liddon from Oh She Glows. I actually drove out to get her cookbook the day it came out because I was so damn excited about it! I also previously got a lot of my recipes from A Beautiful Mess, though they’re not particularly vegan-friendly, but I will sometimes try to adapt and veganize their stuff. I also love Fork and Beans, The Colorful Kitchen, It Doesn’t Taste like Chicken and many, many more!
(Q: Wait a minute… do you not use Oxford commas?)
(A: Sorry, I don’t use the Oxford Comma. I was brought up on CP Style!)
Q: What are common substitutions in a non-vegan recipe?
A: Honestly, sometimes I can look at a baking recipe or even a savoury recipe and I don’t even think twice. I sub unsweetened almond milk for regular milk, a flax egg for eggs (you can also use apple sauce!), coconut oil or Earth Balance for butter, margarine or shortening, full-fat coconut milk for heavy cream… it’s all about getting to know your ingredients and what works best. The same goes for gluten-free cooking — I’ll use rolled oats instead of bread crumbs or gluten-free flours (always remember your xanthan gum).
Q: Where do you get your vegan foods?
A: Vegan foods… you mean… food? I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to shop entirely at Whole Foods and The Big Carrot (it gets really expensive). I live across the street from a Metro and buy most of my produce there, or I get it from the Longo’s around the corner from the office or the Superstore by my climbing gym — Superstore and any Loblaw’s-owned grocery store are great for their natural food sections. There are few times when I really, truly have to make trips to “specialty” stores for those kinds of items like black salt or vegan mayo. In fact, I think I use specialty stores more for toiletries and personal care items than I do for food. I usually go to The Big Carrot on the Danforth, Healthy Planet (there are multiple locations but I always find myself at the one on Eglinton and Warden) and sometimes Whole Foods in Markham near my office.
Q: How long have you been climbing?
A: I’ve been climbing since February of 2013.
Q: What kind of climbing do you do?
A: Because Toronto doesn’t have a ton of outdoor climbing areas, I mostly climb indoors. I’d say 90% of my practice is top-rope and lead. I’m not very strong at bouldering and don’t enjoy it as much as I like routes.
Q: What grades do you climb?
A: I usually peak at 5.11- indoors on top rope and can almost get that high on lead, though it largely depends on the style of the route. I’m big into intricate footwork and complex body positioning, not so much with big reaches and power moves. I might climb a 5.10+ better than I climb a 5.9 depending on the style and who set the route.
Q: Where do you climb?
A: My membership and loyalty is with the Toronto Climbing Academy in East York. I have also climbed a lot at True North, Joe Rockhead’s and Hub Climbing (also in the GTA) and got my start climbing at Grand River Rocks in Kitchener. I try to go to a climbing gym everywhere I go.
Q: Do you have tips on becoming a better climber?
A: Not really. I became good at climbing the way one becomes good at anything — through practice, repetition and persistence. If anything I would say don’t neglect bouldering even if you prefer sport climbing, because it is a strong way to build your strength, reach and technique. But overall it’s up to you to know your style and become a better climber.
Q: How long have you been dancing?
A: I started recreational lessons at age 11 and started taking it more seriously at age 14.
Q: What is your style of dance?
A: I don’t have “one style” of dance — I’m not a SYTYCD contestant who has to summarize their livelihood in a single genre. I’ve thoroughly studied ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, musical theatre and acrobatics. If anything I’m strongest at tap.
Q: Will you choreograph a number for me?
A: Not for free! If you’re legitimately interested in choreography and you don’t live crazy far from me, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can work something out.
Q: How would you describe your personal style?
A: I get this a lot, but I never know how to answer it. I dress how I feel. Most days I feel mildly professional with a bit of athletic through in there and strong desire to feel comfy. I was a big tomboy growing up and loved punk and hardcore, so that will always have an influence in how I dress.
Q: What kind of tips do you have for becoming a professional journalist?
A: Build your portfolio. Do real work — you’ll never catch the attention of an editor if you just keep a blog where you don’t have to interview, fact-check or research. Show that you can write more than just your opinion. If you can’t find anyone to take that story, host it yourself. Become comfortable interviewing people. Write for a student paper. Learn photography and learn to code. Have your drivers’ license. Gain experience writing for multiple platforms (print, radio, video, web).
Q: How many tattoos do you have and how many do you plan on getting?
A: I have four currently, with #5 in the works. I don’t have a number that I plan on getting. I’ll stop when I stop.
Q: What piercings do you have?
A: I have my ears pierced but never wear earrings (maybe twice a year). I have my nostril, belly button and septum pierced.
Q: Do you want kids?
A: No. I love kids but have no plans on having children of my own.